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A bit about Prayer:

Prayer, at its most simple, is a conversation with the Divine.

Of course, people are rarely simple and depending on whom one asks (or reads), there are a number of different kinds of prayers (in terms of purpose).

The precise number of prayer types and their names vary between individuals and tradition…but upon close examination of a number of discussions on the matter (mainly from Christian sites and clergy, since there isn’t hardly any comparable Pagan discussion on the topic), and the wise observation of Caelia over at Pagan Forum, I think  all prayers can probably be narrowed down into two groups–the kind that ask for stuff (petition) and that kind that doesn’t (praise).

The first type of prayers–the kind the ask for stuff–come in two types, ones that ask for stuff for others (intercession) and ones that ask for stuff for yourself (supplication).*   Intercessory prayer is a common phenomenon in the Christian tradition, but can be problematic for some Pagans who may consider praying for a specific outcome without someone’s consent can be seen as unethical.  Among some religious denominations, it is even used as a form of so-called spiritual warfare.  Prayers of supplication on the other hand are prayers for yourself, and can have a number of purposes– confession or contrition prayers requesting forgiveness, as well as prayers asking for blessing or protection, etc.  Petitionary prayers also can be both intercessory and supplicatory–such as asking for blessing for one’s family or home, asking for something like world peace, or for a good harvest for the community.

The second type of prayer, the kind that don’t ask for stuff, are prayers of praise and can most easily be summed up as two main types (or their hybrid) as well–ones that express gratitude (thanksgiving) and ones that proclaim the awesomeness (adoration) of {enter deity name here}.  IMO, understanding these sorts of prayers are far more straightforward, and are probably the most common prayers that I have encountered in Paganism, particularly in terms of prayers that are often pre-written.  For examples of adorations, Sannion’s blog, The House of Vines, has quite a selection–once you read one, you can probably suss out how to write one!

*Some commentary on the subject considers supplication and petition to be equivalent terminology and intercession a type of supplication/petition.

Special Considerations:

Within the various Pagan tradition, there are always diverse opinions on how things should be done.  Some people find praying for others to be unethical.  Others may view petitionary prayer as disrespectful to the gods.  Someone else might not be on the best terms with a particular deity or pantheon, or perhaps someone is just uncomfortable with the idea of being prayed for.  Its always a good idea to get permission to pray for someone else.  And if they don’t give that permission, its always a good idea to respect their wishes.

Something else to think about is that while prayers are a conversation with divinity (however you are choosing to recognize it), prayer can also be a form of magic.  Often Pagans will compare spells with prayers by saying that they are the same, except for the “props” of spellwork…but that’s really not an accurate assessment, even for petitioning prayers.  Spells are worked primarily from one’s own will, while petitionary prayers are a petition to a deity and are largely independent of one’s own will.  When prayers can be incorporated into spells and spell work can invoke divine intervention/assistance, they make a sort of spell-prayer hybrid, using one’s own will, but also asking for divine aid.

Spells are much like prayers but a prayer asks a external deity to intercede on your behalf because you are unable to affect change in some aspect of your life while a spell draws up your divinity from within and invokes the energies of the world to bring about change in accord with the rhythms of nature and the sacred power within.

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(to be continued)

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